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China's flight path for migrating rare birds saved by wetland habitat protection efforts of RSPB bird policy advocate - leading to award

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An RSPB policy advocate has received the Jiangsu Friendship award in China for her work in protecting the habitat of endangered water birds.

The award is granted to foreign nationals in China who have made ‘outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress’.

Nicola Crockford, who lives in Tuddenham, was given the award after spending several years working in the Chinese province to help develop policies to preserve the natural habitat of the spoon-billed sandpiper.

Nicola Crockford has received the Jiangsu friendship award
Nicola Crockford has received the Jiangsu friendship award

Nicola’s efforts firstly led to the suspension of plans to turn a wetland area into agricultural land and a port.

She continued to work with the Chinese government and worldwide conservation group IUCN as China subsequently began implementing a policy to protect the wetlands on the Yellow Sea coast.

Finally, Nicola’s work with China and IUCN was able to deliver the greater goal of having the area classified as a World Heritage site, granting it the highest level of protection in the world.

This secures the future of wetlands on the Yellow Sea coast which are crucial to the long-term survival of water-birds that spend time recuperating there. Birds like the spoon-billed sandpiper visit the area to feed and moult and securing World Heritage status strengthens the survival chances of a species which only has 200 pairs remaining.

Nicola said: “Their chances have improved massively now. China has also undertaken environmental improvements within the last five years, the pace of which, is mind-boggling. I honestly think China are the world leaders in conservation right now.”

In her acceptance speech, Nicola said: “We are well aware that for the leaders of Jiangsu and other coastal provinces, the 2018 State Council Circular on coastal wetlands, while being probably the best such policy anywhere in the world, also poses significant challenges for you economically.

“Yet, having seen your achievement in terms of the Phase I World Heritage inscription, we have every hope that you will develop a way to sustainably manage the site – and indeed your whole coastline – such that it brings benefits for birds and the local economy.”